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How to become a Cartographer

Cartographers are map makers. They design, create, and adapt maps, charts, and plans using a combination of geographical, scientific, and mathematical methods. The scope for this job ranges from creating traditional maps to driving directions, and cartographers are employed by individuals, businesses, or specific industries such as the military. While it may seem obscure, this role is in fact more in demand than ever, with jobs expected to increase in the coming years.

If you love maps and geography, and enjoy researching and designing things, then a career in Cartography could be perfect for you.

What skills do I need as a cartographer?

  • Geographical, environmental & mathematical knowledge
  • Graphic & design skills
  • Analytical thinking & technical skills
  • Thorough & precise
  • Proficient communicator
  • Collaborative & adaptable
  • Computer literacy skills
  • Strong spatial awareness

What does the job involve?

  • Researching, evaluating, and manipulating data to create maps, charts, and plans
  • Using GIS (geographical information systems) to study and copy landscapes
  • Engaging with digital and graphical source material for design and collation of maps
  • Conducting topographic (land) and hydrographic (sea) surveys
  • Editing and updating older versions of maps
  • Using specialist technical software to design maps for different media
  • Collaborating with other industry professionals such as surveyors, architects, and engineers
  • Using attention to detail to ensure details are accurate and to scale
  • Rendering data into visual translations

What industries do cartographers typically work in?

  • Public Administration and Safety
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
  • Mining

What Career Cluster do cartographers belong to?

Because their work involves using their skills and knowledge to collate specialised information, Informers tend to suit careers in cartography. Innovators may also enjoy cartography due to the design and creativity elements of map-making.

What kind of lifestyle can I expect?

Cartographers tend to work full time, with an average work load of 40 hours a week, although some work additional overtime. There aren’t many part-time opportunities available for this profession. You most likely won’t need to work weekends or holidays, as the work is generally expected to be done in normal business hours.

Although most cartographers work in an office, there are options for remote work-from-home positions (if you have the software). You may also occasionally need to travel to locations that are being mapped, so expect to occasionally work outdoors as well.

Most cartographers earn an average salary throughout their career, but salaries vary depending on your skill and experience.

How to become a cartographer

You usually need to complete a formal vocational or undergraduate qualification in spatial or geographical sciences to become a cartographer.

You may be required to learn programming languages such as Python or Javascript to draw web maps and spatial analysis. Practical experience is also important, so securing an internship could be a beneficial step toward becoming a cartographer.

If you’re in high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a cartographer is right for you, here’s a few things you could do right now:

  • Focus on STEM subjects at school, such as mathematics, geography, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Finishing Year 12 with an emphasis on these skills is your first step to becoming a cartographer.
  • Do an online GIS course to familiarise yourself with the technology.
  • Join a professional cartography organisation, such as the Mapping Sciences Institute Australia. This is great for networking within your field, as well as keeping an eye on any events or training on offer.

Find out more here:

Similar careers to cartographer

  • Surveyor
  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Environmental scientist
  • Geographer
  • Spatial information scientist
  • Remote sensing scientist
  • Soil scientist

Find out more about alternative careers.

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